The Human Impact

Votes for cash, beer and bricks in Colombia’s upcoming elections

In Colombia, it’s easy to tell when election season is in full swing.

Potholes are suddenly filled with cement, stretches of roads are paved and local officials rush to inaugurate often unfinished public buildings. It’s one way to show that public funds have been well spent under their watch as a way of helping the political party they represent to do well at the polls.

Election campaign posters and pamphlets stuffed in postboxes say “no to corruption” and “public funds are sacred”.

Yet election-rigging scandals, allegations of election fraud and vote-buying are an all too common feature of the political landscape in Colombia.

In Colombia’s parliamentary, local and presidential elections over the decades, local media have reported ineligible voters casting ballots, including some using fake or stolen identity cards, and tampered electoral registers that include the names of dead citizens or have names listed twice.

In past elections, local camera crews in slum areas have shown how votes are exchanged for a plate of meat, rice and plantain, or for bricks, roof tiles and other building materials. Local media have reported votes being allegedly bought for around $15 a go.

Fernanda’s story: The dark side of the Guatemalan baby trade

“Finding Fernanda: Two Mothers, One Child and a Cross-Border Search for Truth (Cathexis Press 2011).” It is journalist Erin Siegal’s chronicle of the terrible personal cost to two families ensnared in the corruption and human trafficking that fueled the Guatemala’s booming adoption industry until 2008.

Could corruption be worse in Tunisia, Egypt after Arab Spring?

The “Arab Spring” was fuelled in part by popular desire to weed out corruption. But could graft in fact be on the rise in Egypt and Tunisia?

It could indeed be rising massively, according to Nicola Ehlermann-Cache, a senior policy analyst at the Paris-based think-tank, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

“Unfortunately, informal reports have been made to me – certainly in Tunisia, Egypt and Iraq – (by) people claiming that corruption is rising tremendously,” she said last week as a panelist at the International Bar Association’s (IBA) annual Anti-Corruption Conference in Paris.

Introducing ‘The Human Impact’

Two Congolese boys comfort each other in a hospital in Goma, Feb. 10, 2009. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

Welcome to “The Human Impact”, a new blog by journalists of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters.

Based in far-flung corners of the world, these reporters work for the Foundation’s free global news services: the AlertNet humanitarian website and TrustLaw, an online hub for news and information on good governance, women’s rights and pro bono legal assistance.

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